1859 · New York
After Audubon (1785–1851) completed his landmark work The Birds of America and collaborated with Scottish naturalist William MacGillivray (1796–1852) to write the accompanying text Ornithological Biography, he elected to produce a "popular" edition by combining the images and text in an elegant and portable format — the octavo. => For this essentially new work Audubon increased the number of colored plates from 435 to 500, reordered the text, and edited the content to include more ornithological information and less travel narration. Plates were produced through the camera lucida process, using a prism to trace reverse images from the elephant folio prints onto lithographic stones.
"The octavo edition of Audubon's Birds was probably the greatest commercial success of any color plate book issued in 19th-century America." While it was not inexpensive, the price was such that the octavo "achieved widespread circulation and brought the work into the homes of many well-to-do Americans" (Reese, p. 58).
Present here is the third octavo edition, all title-pages bearing the date of 1859, and containing =>500 fine hand-colored lithographed plates by Philadelphian J.T. Bowen after J.J. and J.W. Audubon. Ayer notes that where backgrounds were plain in the first octavo they were tinted in later ones and that some already tinted backgrounds were attractively altered, with plates more closely approximating those of the elephant folio through the addition of more detailed scenery.
Catalogue of the Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library, pp. 22–23; Reese, Stamped with a National Character, pp. 57–58. Brown publisher's leather, spine lettered in gilt and compartments with a blind device; covers triple-ruled and with an ornate arabesque frame containing the title, all in blind; binding refurbished. All edges gilt. One leaf with a curious internal closed tear, possibly created in the press, with no loss of text. Two pairs of plates transposed; five plates trimmed closely, in one case just touching type, in three cases with loss of publication information, and in one case with the line identifying the bird's perch partially lost in addition to partial loss of publication line. => An excellent set of a splendid edition of one of the most influential color plate books of the 19th century. (Inventory #: 36084)